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Mon, January 29, 2007 : Last updated 22:46 pm (Thai local time)

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By Grace alone

Destiny - and the family business - steered Grace Mahadumrongkul away from art, and now Naresuan beckons

The model and emcee whose popularity blossomed when she so charmingly hosted Channel 5's live variety show "Siam Today", Grace Mahadumrongkul still has her day job at Cosmo Group, the family business. And she's a brand ambassador for Amway as well.

At 37, Grace might seem to have her plate full.

But now she's on big screens everywhere as the monarch's beautiful sister in "The Legend of King Naresuan". It's quite a coup for Grace, who's been turning down film roles for the past decade.

In person, wearing makeup for the movie's promotion, she looks younger than her age and slimmer than she seems on TV. Her kindness and politeness are unwavering.

"Perhaps it was destiny that made me say okay to this film," Grace says, explaining that she's held off so long because she wants to maintain her privacy.

"None of my jobs has made me a 'star', and that's helped me hang on to my private side. Now that I'm an actress, reporters will be more interested in my life, and I'm not ready for that."

The family firm, Cosmo, is truly cosmopolitan - it makes the luxurious packaging for top-brand watches and accessories - so Grace has long been a globetrotter. Her jet-set credentials have often landed her on the covers of magazines, but the modelling is strictly after-work work.

"It's never tiring if you love your job," she says.

Though Grace's Taiwanese mother, Gloria, was an actress in the 1960s, her family had never pushed her toward show business. It's something of a requisite, though, that Grace is able to speak Mandarin for her visits to her grandparents in Taiwan, and Cantonese when she meets her mum's friends in Hong Kong.

With degrees in advertising and graphic design from the United States, Grace still had to persuade her family to let her pursue a career in art. She enrolled in the Art Centre College of Design in Pasadena, California - regarded as Harvard University's art college - but finally her father deemed six years of study abroad too much.

She cut her course short in California and hasn't had a chance to go back again.

Grace worked in accounting at the Lintas advertising agency for two years in preparation for her job at Cosmo. The battles at home continued.

"I was sad that my family couldn't see the talent I had. I cried and cried for years anytime the topic was mentioned."

Setting aside her artistic dream, she studied business administration at the Sasin Graduate School.

"When I was young I was prejudiced against business, but as I got older, my heart opened to it and I learned to appreciate my job, which at least involves gorgeous products like wristwatches and diamonds."

And, at least, there is her expanding sideline in show biz. She's always invited to celebrity art events - painting T-shirts and the like - and now she's jumped from small screen to silver screen.

She started emceeing events a few years ago, and her popularity grew. There's even a Grace fan club with its own website that publishes pictures of her and reports her every movement.

Living in both worlds helps Grace balance her life, and she's now quite happy as Cosmo's marketing executive while popping into the limelight. The family, as ever, is providing the stability, and show business provides the fun.

Parinyaporn Pajee

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